On October 30th, I requested Tribal Council to attend a retreat at Northern Quest Casino at Spokane, WA. The Agenda for this meeting was to discuss Council Ethics and Council Professional Code of Conduct. We needed a place where we could meet with just council without interruption or interference. Recently filed ethics charges, work pressure and stress have been concerns at Council Chambers and it was vital for us to give these issues the attention they deserve. Work pressure and filing ethics between Council members has led to a very stressful environment which is affecting tribal staff, our workplace and is very costly in many ways for our tribe.
On Monday evening we discussed what our expectations were for this meeting and what ground rules we should have with our discussions. I asked each councilmember to identify and write down three major objectives that they feel we should work on as a Council. I also asked for each Council member to write down their three priorities that they would like to work on as a member of Council or as a Committee Chair. This will be the subject of a future article. We recently restructured our Council Committee meeting times and I hope that we can schedule work group sessions with tribal staff to address identified tribal Council priorities.
On Tuesday we began with receiving a compiled report and presentation by our Office of Reservation Attorney on the legislative history of Council Ethics. Afterwards, we had some very frank, open and difficult discussions. We discussed personal attacks; breach of confidentiality; receiving consent from everyone prior to recording tribal meetings; Facebook posts; Council conduct with tribal staff and the public; supporting official position and council resolution on an issue; allowance of derogatory comments of tribal councilmembers at District Meetings and so on. This was a very emotionally charged meeting and I want to thank all of the Council for staying to the end.
We all agreed that our Ethics Code needs to be revised. We agreed that we need a “Professional Code of Conduct” for Tribal Council. We all agreed that we need to find ways to move forward in a better direction for the advancement of our Tribe. Marvin Kheel, Tribal Government Chair, has agreed to hold future workgroup meeting to address revision of our Ethics Code and development of a Professional Code of Conduct for Tribal Council. We have yet to decide upon a process to accomplish this and this will be the subject of one of our initial sessions.
I hope that our membership will appreciate that we are dealing with these issues head on and that we exemplify leadership and commitment toward improving our working relationships. Thanks to each one of Council for their participation, no matter how difficult of a day this was, this day is behind us. I ask that we remain committed toward showing professional respect for each other and we move toward the important work on the many issues that our tribe faces today.
Rodney Cawston, Chairman
Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation